Death toll rises to 27:
High-powered committee to probe Welikada Prison violence
The Government yesterday appointed a three-member high-powered
committee to probe the violence at the Welikada Prison which led to the
death of 27 inmates on Friday evening.
The police deployed a special CID team to probe the incident, which
also left several police personnel injured. The mayhem erupted when
prison officials and the Special Task Force launched a search
operation to seize heroin and mobile phones smuggled into the prison.
As the search operation was winding up, several hardcore criminal
inmates had broken into the prison armoury and taken 82 automatic
weapons which they fired indiscriminately at prison officials and STF
personnel. Sixteen prison inmates who were injured in the cross-fire
died on admission at the Colombo National Hospital. Eleven bodies of
inmates, all hardcore criminals and some of them on death row, were
found in the prison when the shooting ended.
Police and Security Forces are also on the trail of a few escapees.
They recovered all weapons except five firearms. Making a special
statement in Parliament, Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister
Chandrasiri Gajadeera said the three-member committee appointed by the
Commissioner General of Prisons will also probe how the prisoners broke
into the prison armoury before going on a shooting spree.
The Minister said that hundreds of prisoners had stormed out of their
cells as the prison officials, assisted by members of the Special Task
Force (STF) were winding up the search operation.
The prisoners who had broken free from the cells were from the two
wards which had housed around 900 “special category” criminals.
Minister Gajadeera said that there are 3,621 prisoners at the
Welikada prisons and regular checks are being carried out by prison
officials to detect smuggled goods including mobile phones and drugs.
Minister Gajadeera said that during the search operations many items
were recovered. “The authorities had called in the Army as the 25 prison
officials who remained in the compound could not contain the violence
among prisoners”, the Minister said.
When the Army entered the prison and issued a call to surrender that
too was ignored by the armed prisoners who continued firing. In the
retaliatory fire by the Army, at least 11 prisoners had been killed.
“The Army with police personnel carried out search and clear
operations during the wee hours of Saturday.
Army personnel recovered the bodies of inmates and several weapons
that they were carrying,” Army Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya
“Troops of the 14 Division of the Army were deployed to assist the
police on Friday. By yesterday morning we handed over the prison and we
are temporarily providing security outside the prison premises,” he
Senior DIG Western Province, Anura Senanayake said some of the
country’s most notorious criminals who were either on death row or
serving life sentences were among those who had led the rioting.
They had subsequently died in the crossfire. Several prisoners who
had tried to escape in a three-wheeler were also shot dead, he said.
The Commandant of the Police Special Task Force, R.W.M.C. Ranawana
who was injured during the riot, underwent surgery at the Colombo
He is in a stable condition, National Hospital Director Anil Jasinghe
said. Over 40 persons injured in the shooting are receiving treatment at
the Colombo National Hospital.
[No foreigners injured]
The External Affairs Ministry confirmed that there had been no
reports of foreign prisoners being injured in the Welikada prison
incident on Friday.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said they contacted the
Prison authorities and was told that as of yesterday no foreigner has
been identified with injuries sustained due to the prison clash. It was
not clear how many foreign prisoners were held in the enclosure at the
time of the incident.